Valerie is a 42-year-old, single, Reformed Christian lady who lives in Baltimore. She doesn't remember a time
before she knew and loved Jesus, but she does remember accepting John Calvin into her heart in March of 2000.
Valerie is a member of Christ Reformed Evangelical Church in Annapolis.
Though her career aspiration is to be a housewife, Valerie has not yet found anyone suitable who wishes to hire
her for employment in that field (or, more properly, anyone suitable has not found her), so in the meantime she
earns her daily bread working in communications -- editing, writing, print design and website management.
If a misguided father, in the interests of preventing pride from taking root in his children, offered criticism after criticism, the results would not be what he anticipated. Instead of rearing humble children, he would bring up neurotic and jumpy children. "What is it now?" would be their constant internal question. But another father who praised, honored, accepted, delighted in, and rejoiced over his children would be bringing up secure children, children who are able to forget themselves in the interests of others.
Now we are at the Lord's dinner table, where many of these conversations take place. What kind of father do you think He is? Which father represents our heavenly Father best? Far too often we slander Him, as though He were like the first father in the illustration. We pretend that we are being severe with ourselves, when we are actually misrepresenting Him.
You are here, at His Table. Forgiveness has been declared over you. You have heard the Word proclaimed. You have sung psalms and hymns to Him, and all of it has been received in the Lord Jesus. You are seated here, and you are welcome here. You are seated in the company of the blessed, and you are not the odd man out. This is your home. This is your meal. These are your people. He is your God. Quiet your fears. Set them aside. My commission as a minister is to tell you to set them aside. Did God pay the price He paid in order to be able to bring you in here to snarl at you? Of course not. Come and welcome.
"With what disgust, contempt, and hatred Christ must look upon every second of our lives, the reviewing of which must be a long torture for us, were such a judgment in our future!"
These are the words of a Presbyterian minister, writing in a prominent evangelical magazine. He's trying to refute the belief that we'll be judged according to works at the last day. He's wrong on that point. Paul says clearly and repeatedly that everyone will be judged according to his works. But that's not my main interest this morning. My interest is the attitude this writer attributes to Jesus.
Do you think Jesus is filled with "disgust, contempt, and hatred...every second of our lives"? Many Christians do, and there are others who want to reinforce that view. Job's friends did. They posed as "comforters" but they were really little "satans," accusers more interested in convicting than comforting.
Job's response is not meekly to turn over and take it. His response is not, "Well, you've got a point there. I admit I'm totally depraved." His response is to deny their accusations and defend himself. That should be our response too. But how? We know how sinful we are, how often we fail and fall. How can we defend ourselves with the same confidence as Job?
The answer will come in a few moments, as it comes every week in the liturgy. As we enter the Lord's presence, we first need to be cleansed by confessing our sins. When we've confessed, the Father tells us how he regards us, and He doesn't express disgust, contempt, or hatred. What He expresses is free and absolute forgiveness, love, favor, brotherly kindness, mercy. Because you are in the Son, "He forgives you all your sins."
When the accusations come, don't grovel and don't let yourself be manipulated. Instead: Remember the words of absolution and realize that even more than Job you have grounds to protest your innocence. Remember the declaration of forgiveness, and believe that in Christ your sins are completely, utterly gone. Remember that you have been cleansed, silence the satans, and know that Jesus Christ by His Spirit is the true Comforter.
The next time some sophisticated theological accuser, some Confessional satan, wants to convict you of sin, you've got a choice: Believe the accuser, or believe God.